April 17, 2016
From: George Dusenbury, President DDN.
Great turnout last night! Tremendous thanks to the 100 or so folks who showed up for those who wanted to but couldn’t, you can watch the presentation here (it starts at the 10-minute mark of Requests and Petitions). We have received consistent feedback that the City has not seen anything quite like what they have experienced in support of the park.
That being said, response from our elected officials was underwhelming at best. You can watch it here – 2 minutes into Reports and Other Business. Which means that we have our work cut out for us. We need to figure out what, if anything, actually is happening so that we can continue to channel our energy effectively. Because the park can happen.
Below are the concluding remarks from our presentation.
Today I got an email from the City telling me that they had reached out to the property owner and the parcel was not for sale.
And I thought, so what?
A little context is in order.
We brought the need for a downtown park to the attention of staff and elected officials two years ago. We noted that the Bank of America Parking lot was the ideal site. In response to direction from the City, we created Downtown Decatur Neighbors to help advocate for the park. In 2014, we petitioned the Commission to create a downtown park. We volunteered to work with you to figure out how to make it happen. We presented the Decatur Development Authority nearly a dozen ways to pay for parkland. We essentially recreated the defunct Natural Systems Committee of the Environmental Sustainability Board. We made parks an issue during the City Commission race.
Despite all that work, we learned five months ago that the Bank of America property would be sold, and that the city had taken no steps to try to purchase it.
And while we were disappointed, that the City had made no effort to acquire the property was expected.
So today’s email was no surprise. It came as no surprise that a company that had just bought the property was not selling it. So what?
After the sale, we realized that working within the system wouldn’t get us a park. We needed to organize. We needed to advocate. We needed to overcome the inertia that is content to let Downtown Decatur become wall to wall condos and apartments.
Because it is not too late to create a park on the Bank of America site. The City has the legal authority and financial wherewithal to make it happen. These are facts. You, our elected officials, have the power to make this happen.
But by not acquiring the property when it was for sale, we have made the task that much harder.
I bear some responsibility, I guess. I didn’t want to put us in the position we find ourselves tonight – challenging our elected officials and City staff. Pushing you perhaps to discomfort. Letting people know that you would not create a Downtown Park unless we pushed really hard – and then getting as many people as possible to begin pushing as hard as possible.
And now we have to push harder because you have to work harder – because our best, easiest opportunity to create a downtown park passed five months ago.
But the opportunity still exists. At the end of the day, to paraphrase former President Bush, which I don’t do often, you are the deciders. That’s what government is. Deciding is not asking for something to happen. Deciding is using the authority invested in you to make it happen.
So tonight, we petition you for a downtown park. We petition you for this – because only you can make it happen. Because if it does not happen now, it never will.